Today's offering comes from Questing Parson. Thank you, Parson!
On a reasonably regular basis, the parson disappears. Well, he doesn't completely disappear, but it might as well be the case. On those scheduled times, a few sentences appear in the Sunday bulletin informing the congregation the pastor will be unavailable on a specific date and, in the case of an emergency, he can only be reached by contacting the Chairperson of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, who has the phone number of the place the parson's hiding. Charlie Brown, the parson's faithful canine companion, is dropped off at the vet's office where he spends the day. The parson then turns off his cell phone and heads toward the small church-related college twenty-five miles from the parson's church.
By mid-morning the parson was settled back in an armchair located in a corner of the library of the small church-related college tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, book in hand, notebook and pen for notes resting on the chair's arm. The notebook already had scores of pages filled with notations. It was promising to be a good day of study and reflection.
“Excuse me,” she said in a hushed library tone, “you're the Parson, aren't you?”
The parson put the leaned forward, put the book on the coffee table, and said, “I am. Have we met?”
“Yes, we have,” she responded with enthusiasm. “My aunt is Geraldine Powers. I've visited your church with her two times.”
The parson now recognized having seen her at church, talking with her as she left, but for the life of him he couldn't place Geraldine Powers.
“Yes, I remember, how are you? I didn't know you were going to school here?”
“I enrolled in the fall. Since I decided to go into the ministry, I thought it would be better to go to a church school. Besides, I study a lot more here than I did at the university.”
“Well, I'm glad for you,” said the parson. “When did you decide to go into the ministry?”
She sat down in the chair which was ninety degrees to hers, then she leaned forward. “It was really a quiet thing. I mean, I didn't hear any voices or anything like that. I was just sitting in a chapel at a youth camp in Dahlonega, where I was on a weekend retreat. Something unusual happened. I just felt like I was in the presence of God and when I left that chapel I was headed for a life in the church.”
“Oh, my goodness,” the parson exclaimed. “I sat in that chapel when I was about your age, too. And here I am.”
“Cool,” she said. “Maybe we should form a 'Called at the Chapel' society.”
“Now, that sounds like a plan,” said the parson. “And from what I've learned over the years there would be a large membership.”
She smiled. She leaned back in her chair. “Can I ask you a serious question, Parson?”
“Sure,” said the parson.
“Why do you keep doing it?”
“Keep doing what?” the parson asked.
“Keep serving the church Sunday after Sunday, week Almost all of them after week?”
“Why do you ask that?” the parson asked.
She seemed to think about her response a moment, then replied, “I just keep getting these doubts. Here I am just six months after knowing I want to be a pastor and I'm having doubts.” She took a deep breath and said, “Look, Parson, since I've been here I've gone to lots of different churches every Sunday. And I've been talking to a lot of pastors. You know what? Almost all of them are frustrated. I just had no idea how many ministers were so upset with the church. Are you?”
The parson took a deep breath. He began to formulate an answer in his mind. But she gave him a reprieve.
“Oh, Parson, I know you're not upset like some people. I mean, goodness, look how long you've been a pastor. I guess that's why I wanted to talk to you. Why do you keep doing it?”
In a split second the parson's mind raced back over the last forty-seven years. In particular he raced back over the last six months. He looked at her. He envisioned her next decade, her ordination, her first church.
“Remember the chapel?” the parson asked.
“I do,” she said.
“That's why,” said the parson. “That's why. There's no other explanation. It's a crazy reason. It's not logical. But it's why I keep going. It's why I'm going to preach next Sunday and make the hospital visits next week. It's why when attendance is an insult I preach anyway; it's why when …. Well, it's why. That chapel in the mountains is why.”
She looked at him a minute. “Do you come here often?”
“I do,” said the parson. “At least once a month.”
“Can we talk again?”
“I'd like that,” said the parson. “I'd like that,” said the parson. “That would help me a lot.”